The Cost of Shoeing a Horse

Jessica McDaniel
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Shoeing a Horse: Should Your Horse Wear One?

In the wild, hoofed animals spend a lot of time on softer, sandy and muddy surfaces. It is a natural occurrence for hoofed animals to have soft feet. However, these animals have evolved to cope with and work well on soft areas. Those hooves would not last very well on rocky or hard surfaces. Over millions of years, animals have developed hooves that are soft but have a way of distributing the weight of the animal over the whole foot, so the impact of the foot on the ground is still effective.

The natural softness of the hoof means they require less protection against the impacts of hard surfaces and function better as an integral part of the animal’s feet.

During domestication, however, most animals have been separated from their natural environment and their natural habits. We have kept them in fairly restrictive and unnatural environments. As a result, domesticated animals now have a far less active lifestyle and are much less mobile.

Their hooves have adapted to this lifestyle, and, therefore, they have less protective hoof and do not have enough movement through their body now to keep the hoof at an optimum level of health and hardness.

Shoeing a Horse: Is it Necessary?

Horses don’t require shoed to live a healthy and successful life, but if you want to maximize the use and enjoyment of your horse’s life than shoeing is required.

If you think of the average riding horse as a way to exercise, work, or use for business, then the horse is more valuable shod. If you think of your horse as a companion that is going to be ridden occasionally, or lightly, then the horse will be fine unshod. Walking on wood, dirt, or gravel can result in serious damage to the horse’s feet. A horse that walks around mostly unshod will need far more vet care as a result of foot and leg problems. In addition, unshod feet, when the horse does come in for riding, require that the horse be shod more often.

Equine professionals agree that a horse should be shoed to:

  • help prevent hoof wall injuries,
  • help prevent founder caused by sub-par hoof quality,
  • maximizes the life of the hoof,

And makes it easier to stay on the horse and enjoy riding long into the horse’s life.

Why Should I Shoe My Horse?

The basic and simple answer is that shoeing your horse is a healthy, functional choice that keeps your horse sound and able to perform in any discipline: English or Western, racing, trail riding or working cattle.

If you want to go into competition, your horse is more likely to pass inspection with the right shoes. If you ride trails, your horse's hooves are more likely to stay on. And if you simply enjoy exercise, your horse is more comfortable and will go further before fatigue sets in. Shoeing extends the life of your horse's feet and keeps him comfortable and sweet-stepping well into his adulthood.

Horses that are prone to ulcers or founder, if they are shod, are less likely to develop these conditions. If you are a pleasure rider, shod hooves are easier for you to understand and care for, and you can trust your horse to carry you safely any distance.

There are many references to the "natural way" for your horse's hooves to grow. While this may be true for some breeds, temperament and use also affect how the hoof grows. A natural hoof is often a hoof that slides around, trips and continually creates problems.

Be a smart shoer, do your homework and find out what your horse's hoof is like; it's specifically designed for the type of exercise he does. Get lucky and you will find a good farrier.

Four Reasons to Shoe Your Horse

The two main reasons for shoeing horses is health and performance reasons. Shoeing keeps the hooves from cracking which would lead to hoof abscesses and infections. The hooves are also strong and resilient after being shod as a result of new growth and the walls of the hoof are thicker than non-shod hooves. There is also evidence that shod hooves are more shock absorbent than unshod hooves. If you live in an area with rocky, gravely ground, and/or if your horse travels on trails where there is a danger of hitting nails and other objects, you will want to consider putting shoes on your horse. Shoeing may also result in better performance. It can reduce lameness caused by quarter crack, back soreness from leaving the shoes off, and a horse that is not "shod up" (where the shoe is down on the frog of the hoof) will typically break out in a sweat or jog when moving around before performing heavy work. It is a common misconception that shod hooves make hooves stronger. The only thing that makes hooves stronger is new growth. By removing the old hoof material, the hoof grows out stronger and thicker.

Do Horse Shoes Hurt?

Many people speculate that horse shoes must pinch the horse's foot and cause pain. But the opposite is actually true!

The act of shoeing a horse involves removing the outer layer of the hoof wall which is dead and not part of the normal foot mechanics. The shoe or horseshoe acts as a replica of the horse's foot with the arch support and keep the hoof flat.

The only reason a horse's hoof becomes sore is either because it's malnourished and its hoof wall may be too weak to support the horse's weight, or because the horse has not been shod and is running on poor quality surfaces.

Well-adjusted horse shoes have pasterns (the lower area of the horse's leg) inserts that have the same shape and thickness as the leg bones of the horse and the sides of the shoe are shaved down in the angle of the hoof so that when the hoof is trimmed into a round shape, it’s the same height all the way around.

When a horse is shod, if the hoof is not trimmed correctly, the walls of the hoof can not grow at the same rate as the toe, and the resulting laminitis may cause lameness and even death of the horse.

How Much Does it Cost to Shoe a Horse?

"Is there a standard cost of shoeing?" I get that question a lot. It does depend on a few things. What area you live in might determine a more standard cost. Your horses type, breed and use can also determine the cost of shoeing.

If you take your horse to someone inexperienced, or not trained in farrier work, they may end up doing more damage to your horse than if they did nothing at all to it. Either way it ends up being more costly.

For example, if you boarded your horse somewhere that didn't have shoers on staff and it had a bad case of founder, which was more costly, getting your horse to the shoer or seeing a vet to get it worked on?

Let's look into the details and costs of shoeing your horse.

How Often Does a Horse Need to See a Farrier

The frequency with which a farrier visits will depend on the type of shoeing a horse requires.

More Information and The Cost of a Farrier Visit.

If you think that you're going to save money by doing your horse's shoes at home, you should do a little research first. You'll find out just how expensive it is to shod a horse and you'll realize, it's not cost-effective.

Your horse in turn will reward you by being sound and having a good shoulder and stifle, rather than being lame or developing bone problems.

If you can't afford to keep your horse barefoot, consider glue-on shoes. They will protect your horse’s hoof from the environment and also keep him from getting too far down the road of severe hoof problems.

If you're shoeing your horse yourself and don't have someone who can help or teach you, here is a good video on how to shoe a horse.

What to Look for in a Farrier

If you have any interest in having your horse's hooves trimmed, you should know that there is a huge difference between farriers. It is your responsibility to choose a qualified farrier that uses acceptable procedures and quality equipment.

If you find a farrier that does excellent work on your horse, don’t be afraid to ask for a brochure or card that describes how and what he does with your horse. Find out what organizations he belongs to and where he got his training.

If the farrier resides in a neighboring town, but comes all the way out to do your horse, do you consider that a long drive? Make sure he will be back out the following year!

If you are new to your area and have no recommendations, check with your local veterinarian. He is your best source for identifying skilled farriers.

Is The Cost of Shoeing a Horse Worth It?

Shoes are a very cost-effective way to protect your horse’s hooves. The hooves of a horse are generally far tougher than the foot they grow on, and a horse can lose a hoof if it’s allowed to remain barefoot.

You need to consider the cost of shoeing against the cost of treating the horse for an abscessed hoof or a hoof pulled up by the frog, should the horse grow too long.

In general, for a horse, the answer is usually “yes.” Shoes generally cost what the top-of-the-range boots would cost, so you should consider the extra cost of a shoeing when you compare the cost, no matter if it’s a public or private horse.

Most of the time, nothing short of surgery will save a hoof that has been left too long without shoes.